Personal stories

Lana Maddison, Wigton, was just 19 when she tragically lost her life in a car accident in 2021.

It is believe she died at the scene as her heart was not beating when the ambulance arrived, however they managed to re-start her heart and she was taken to the Cumberland Infirmary. Sadly, tests confirmed Lana had broken her neck.

Lana.jpgLana joined the organ donation register 2 years before and told her family about her wishes. Knowing what Lana wanted made a devastating situation that little bit easier for her family and the organ donation process gave them a little more time to say their goodbyes.

Lana’s mum, Lisa Maddison, told us her story: “I believe Lana made it to Carlisle in time so that she could donate her organs. We had discussed organ donation a couple of years earlier. I remember being in the kitchen when Lana was completing her donation form online at the age of 17, we laughed as she told me she didn’t want to donate her eyes or heart, I said ‘don’t worry Lana, I doubt anyone would want your eyes as you can’t see very well anyway.’ So, when we were approached in ITU, there was really no decision for us to make, we already knew her wishes. Lana was very caring and compassionate; we knew we had to follow her last wishes through.

“After 72 hours in Carlisle Lana was transferred the RVI in Newcastle. This was the only time we left her side, but we followed her in the car. She underwent a number of MRI scans and tests to confirm that life was not viable.

“We were with her constantly, the nurses were fantastic, not only nursing our daughter but caring for us as well. They wanted to know all about her: what her interests were and to see photos of her, this was so comforting. Lana was full of life, and constantly on the go. She was studying at university, working 12-hour shifts on placement, holding down a part time job as a waitress so that she could run her beloved white ford fiesta, Rory. She was also an active member of the Young Farmers in Wigton, organising Balls and charity events.

“The nursing staff looked after Lana like she was one of their own, they played music, talked to her and plaited her hair, and I cannot tell you how grateful I am for the care she was given.

“We spoke to the organ donation nurse at the RVI, completed all the paperwork ready for Lana to go to theatre the following day. This wasn’t easy, how can it be? But it was made bearable by the care and compassion that was shown to us, we went at our speed and never felt rushed or pressured at all. That night I was allowed to wash, dry, and straighten Lana’s hair ready for theatre, this time was absolutely precious to us as a family of four. The following morning family came to say their goodbyes, once again this was never rushed.

“We were given the choice to say our goodbyes on the ward or we could accompany her to theatre to be with her when the breathing apparatus was removed. This was an easy decision for us, we wanted to be with her. We saw her into the world we were going to see her out. We were gently talked through the process and what to expect, this would not be for everyone, but it was definitely the right decision for us as a family. Once again, the nursing staff were right by our sides supporting us and even sourcing music on their phones to play.

“Four hours later we received a phone call to say that Lana had donated two kidneys, pancreas, liver and a lung, 4 recipients had received lifesaving organs. A lady in her 30’s received a kidney and a pancreas, a young school age girl received a kidney, a lady in her 60’s received a liver and a gentleman also in his 60’s received a lung.

“The following day we were allowed to see Lana in the chapel of rest, she was beautiful, just as we had left her the day before, her hair was perfect, she even had a little smile on her beautiful face, we knew then we’d done the right thing, Lana was happy.

“We are immensely proud of Lana, not only the career she chose in life but also how a beautiful young girl chose to help others after her death. Knowing this has brought comfort to us as a family, she gave the greatest gift, life to others.”

This week – organ donation week we urge everyone to please have the conversation, you can make huge difference if you leave them certain.

Register your decision on the Organ Donation Register.

Two kidney transplants completely transformed Paul Caine’s life. He is now passionately urging everyone to register as an organ donor and give the gift of life.

At the age of 11, Paul from Carlisle, was diagnosed with Glomerulonephritis (inflammation and damage to the filtering part of the kidneys). By the time he was 18, he started on dialysis.

Paul Caine.jpgPaul spent 10 years of his life on dialysis, acquiring over 10 infections and having a near death experience.

He said:

“I was 18 when I started dialysis and although I’m grateful for the treatment, I wanted to be getting on with my life. I wanted to be finding a girlfriend, getting a job and the kind of things you do at that age.

“I was on different kinds of dialysis over the years, peritoneal dialysis (5 years), and haemodialysis (another 5 years) going over to Newcastle three times a week (2 years) for a 4-hour treatment. I was taught how to set up my own dialysis machine and transferred to Cockermouth minimal care dialysis care unit, (3 years) supported by a renal nurse each session.

"I was always exhausted afterwards; it was like having sunstroke but without the tan, My quality of life on dialysis improved when I was able dialyse locally reducing my journey each session from 200 miles, to just 16."

Paul found his strength to keep going with his passion in for pool and snooker and it was when he was playing Billiards in John St club that he got that first life-saving call.

He continued:

“They called me and asked me to come in. I remember my mum and dad driving me through, when I got there was somebody else who was taken away first and I remember thinking that they’d given my chance away to somebody else.

“I was then told that they were going to give me a kidney and I could have ran down to the operating theatre. The surgery was done and I was feeling fitter and healthy a short amount of time after that.

“Within the first year of my surgery I had gotten myself a job, I asked the woman I loved to marry me and we were expecting our first son. It was amazing.

“Back in those days, it was just a paper donor card you carried to say your organs could be donated and I wish the woman who’s it was could know what a difference she has made.”

Paul went onto have 3 children and into a career of advocacy before his kidneys began to fail again in 1997. After spending the following two years on dialysis, Paul’s brother, Alan stepped forward and offered to donate his own kidney.

He received his second kidney transplant and from that day forward, Paul has been passionately raising awareness of organ donation and seeking more recognition for those who are living donors.

Paul finished by saying:

“Time does not dilute the gift, it enhances it. I do not say 12 years on kidney dialysis was easy, only that it was worth it.”

Register your decision on the Organ Donation Register

Gary Bayliff, fondly known as ‘chong’, was only 43 when he passed away following an accident in 2021. Gary’s family, from Whitehaven, had never had a conversation about organ donation but decided it is what he would have wanted. Gary’s family told us they’re glad they did because Gary lives on through the lives that he saved.Gary Bayliff.jpg

“Gary was the third child of six a happy, care free person who was very well loved with his family, his friends and most people who knew him.

“At the time of Gary’s death, it was the hardest decision to ever have to make. The doctor and nurses came in to the family room to explain to us that he was not going to make it. They asked if we would him to donate his organs and left us to discuss it. All of the family were there and we talked about it and all had an input. Even though we were too upset to even think about the difference it would make to the recipient(s) we knew it was the right thing to do, and that one day when the grief wasn’t so raw that it would make us happy to know that Gary lives on in others. He helped 3 other people become well enough again to be able to enjoy life. Finding out the difference he made from the recipients of the organs made us all so proud. We know that Gary would be too. 

“Hearing from the recipients was always going to be bitter sweet. It was a roller coaster of emotions receiving letters / cards from them all, but one of the recipients in particular made us really emotional with her thank you letter. The recipient explains that she is alive because of Gary and she promises to live her life to the fullest. She explains the impact not only to her but her partner too. It still makes me cry to read it, but at the same time, happy and proud. This young woman lives on because of Gary. 

“When we discussed organ donation, we only really thought about the person receiving the organ, we had never thought about the positive impact it would have on their family too. It makes a difference to so many lives, not just the person receiving the organ. So for the 3 people who received the organs, not only did their lives improve but so did their families lives as a result.

“If there was anything positive we can take from Gary’s death then this is it. We lost our son and brother and that grief and pain will never go away, but the grief and pain will always be there regardless of what happened to Gary's organs, so why would we not take the opportunity to help other people. To know that he was still helping others in death makes us immensely proud.”

After a lifetime dedicated to caring, Nurse Pauline Brown donated her organs and continued to save lives even after her death.

Pauline Margaret Armstrong was born and raised in Longtown, Carlisle joined the local Cumberland Infirmary as a trainee nurse straight from school, and she retired in 2015, as a Ward Sister, specialising in elderly care. Pauline Brown as a young nurse.jpeg

Pauline’s family are keen to raise awareness of the importance of organ donation and the emergency first aid that made it possible. Pauline’s family said: 

“As a former nurse, having dealt with end-of-life care throughout her career, she was a huge advocate for organ donation and had always talked openly with our family about her wishes. As well as carrying the older donor card, she had signed the online organ donation register, several times over the years, just to make sure. Even after a lifetime of caring, she was determined to help others after her passing. We will forever be grateful to mam’s friends, the first responders and the paramedics, whose swift actions that day, led to the vital survival of her organs, so that they could be used to help others. 

“We want to recognise those who helped mam in her last hours, and those who supported our family during this dark and deeply emotional time. We hope that by sharing this we can inspire and encourage others to sign the organ donation register, raise awareness, and save more lives.

“Despite her busy work life, mam always found time for family and friends, and being a good listener was one of her superpowers. She was compassionate and gentle, with a smile that would light up any room. She was a naturally kind-hearted person who dedicated her life to the care of others and was very proud and passionate about the nursing profession.”Pauline Brown.jpeg

Pauline married her childhood sweetheart, Paul Brown, and they had been a couple for nearly fifty years and married for 46. They raised three children – Kerry, Vikki and Gavin, have 12 grandchildren and two great grandchildren who they adore.

They explained that Pauline’s death was very unexpected: “In November 2022, she met up with three of her former nursing colleagues, and long-time friends. They all had a lovely time and mam was in good spirits and showing no signs of illness. On their journey home in the car, she suddenly became unwell and quickly unresponsive. Realising something was very wrong, her dear friends, Barbara Kidd and Helen Jackson, pulled the car over and called the emergency services. 

“Barbara and Helen stayed calm and talked to mam, reassuring her, while they awaited medical assistance. When mams pulse stopped, they immediately began CPR, continuing until the first responders arrived and, shortly afterwards, the paramedics. Barbara, Helen and the emergency response teams worked tirelessly to help her.  

“Mam was taken to the Cumberland Infirmary, where A&E staff and doctors tried to stabilise her, while trying to figure out what had happened. Following a head CT scan, we were advised that she had suffered what they believed to be a catastrophic bleed on the brain. She was immediately transferred to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). All the hospital staff were all kind, gentle and understanding, carefully explaining what was happening at each stage.

“The following morning the doctor explained that he believed she was brain stem dead, meaning her brain had died. This devastating prognosis instantly turned our lives upside down and the hope that we had for her recovery quickly disappeared. Through tears, our dad Paul, was able to speak up for mam and tell the doctor that mam wished to be an organ donor. 

“Once mams diagnosis had been confirmed with brain stem tests, the process of organ donation began, and our family was introduced to a nurse from the specialist organ donation team.  The nurse explained, gently and respectfully, what would happen next. It is a lengthy process and extremely difficult to navigate when you are in shock, trying to comprehend what’s happened. Saying goodbye to your loved one in this situation is a very different process. As a family, we knew we had to remain strong together, and we were able to say our last heartbreaking goodbyes in our own ways.

“The specialist team ensure that donors are treated with the greatest care and respect during the removal of organs and tissue for donation. Retrieval takes place in a normal operating theatre and is carried out by specialist surgeons.  Our family received a thankful telephone call from the organ donation surgeon as soon as her surgery was over, with an update on what this had entailed. We were supported and kept informed throughout the entire process.”

Less than two weeks after Pauline’s death, the family received a letter from the NHS Blood and Transplant Donor Family Care Service informing them that Pauline had already helped transform the lives of four people. This included a lifesaving liver transplant, two separate kidney transplants, and donation of corneal tissue to a recipient who has gained improved sight. 

They have continued to receive regular updates from the service, advising us of all those who have now benefitted from her donation. In December 2022, just before Christmas, the family received a beautiful, heartfelt letter from the recipient of a kidney. The letter was addressed to ‘the family I will forever be grateful to from a loving husband and father of two children’.  

They said: “It was a great comfort to us all, especially over the festive period and the first Christmas without mam.”

“Mams funeral, at Arthuret church, was a celebration of her life, and of those she had helped, and was attended by hundreds of people, showing just how many lives she had touched.  A collection on the day raised over £1600, which was split between the church and ICU at the Cumberland Infirmary. A grateful thank you for the dedicated care and compassion shown to us during her final hospital visit.

“On 9 May 2023, our family attended a presentation at the Civic Centre in Newcastle Upon Tyne, proudly wearing our Organ Donor Family, Gold Heart pins. The pins symbolise the generosity we have shown in supporting organ donation.  The presentation posthumously awarded mam of The Order of St John, granted by HRH The Duke of Gloucester, and given as national recognition of organ donation.

“As a close knit and loving family, we are devastated at the loss of a truly amazing woman, our angel Pauline, but we are immensely proud of her.  She leaves behind a legacy with her generosity that cannot be forgotten – the gift of life. We would urge everyone to sign the organ donation register and have those difficult conversations with your loved ones. When the time comes, leave them certain of your wishes.

“Family or next of kin are always consulted about organ donation, even when a person is signed up on the donation register. Ultimately, family make the decision to donate or not. We were astonished to learn, through our own research that between April 2021 and April 2022 there was only four donors from NCIC who donated 11 organs. These figures show just how rare organ donation can be. It is only with ongoing support of donation that those in need of an organ transplant have any hope for a future. We hope that by sharing mams story we can help more lives to be changed and saved.”

Register your decision on the Organ Donation Register

Organ donation is truly the gift of life

We are marking Organ Donation week by encouraging everyone to have a conversation with their families and register their decision about organ donation. That way if the worst happens you have left them certain.

Over 7000 people are waiting for an organ transplant in the UK, and every day someone dies waiting because there just aren’t enough donors.

Organ donation is the gift of an organ to help someone who needs a transplant. Thousands of lives in the UK are saved or transformed each year by organ transplants.

Sharon Uhrig, Organ Donation Liaison Nurse at North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“One person donating after their death can provide life-saving transplants for up to 9 recipients; restore eyesight for up to 4 people; and prevent another 6 people from going blind. They can also transform lives of a further 40 people through transplanting heart valves, tendon, ligaments, bone or blood vessels and in many cases lives are saved after severe burns by having donated skin grafts. Donation after death is an incredible gift.”

Organs that can be donated by people who have died include heart, lungs, kidneys, pancreas, liver and small bowel.

From April 2022 to April 2023, NCIC supported 7 organ donations, who combined donated 17 organs:

  • 1 lung
  • 7 kidneys
  • 2 pancreas’
  • 7 livers

While more people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds are receiving transplants than ever before, Black and Asian patients still wait longer than White patients for a transplant.

People can receive a transplant from someone of any ethnicity, however the most suitable match is likely to come from a donor of the same ethnicity.

Organ donation remains your choice.

You can go to the website to register your decision to donate or you have the option to opt out. If there is no recorded decision for you, then your consent will be assumed.

However, despite the law change last year regarding consent for donation, the fact is that a family or a next of kin will always be consulted about organ donation.

Sharon added: “Families will always be involved before organ donation goes ahead so it’s important that you talk with them about organ donation and whether you’d want to be a donor. Your family will be expected to support your decision.

“If you don’t have family, or your relationship is difficult, you can also nominate a representative. This might be a friend, GP, faith leader or someone else of your choice.”

Most families who don’t know the wishes of their loved ones will refuse donation whereas 9 in 10 families support organ donation going ahead if they knew what their loved one wanted.

The best way to make your decision known is to record it on the NHS Organ Donor Register and tell your loved ones. You can do that via our website, or via the NHS app in England, or by calling 0300 123 23 23. On the organ donation website, there are tips which could help start the conversation with your family.